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Lenovo IdeaPad U300s Ultrabook hands-on

This flagship of the new IdeaPad U series has a 13.3-inch display, up to a Core i7 processor (ULV), and up to a 256GB SSD, and is just 0.6 inch thick.

Now playing: Watch this: Lenovo U300s Ultrabook

Much has been made of Intel's plans to promote a new laptop designation, the Ultrabook. The initial pitch was something along the lines of an 11- to 13-inch laptop, less than 18 millimeters thick, with SSD storage, running on current-gen Core i-series processors, and selling for less than a comparable MacBook Air--the clear example the Ultrabook design spec is meant to compete with.

We've seen a few Ultrabook announcements recently, but Lenovo is the first to put a working unit in our hands, and we got to spend a little time this week with the new Lenovo IdeaPad U300s. This flagship of the new IdeaPad U series has a 13.3-inch display, up to a Core i7 processor (ULV), and up to a 256GB SSD. It is just 0.6 inch thick.

As you can see in the hands-on video above, this is a sharp-looking system, with a bit more of a buttoned-down look in muted gray than some of the more colorful plastic IdeaPad laptops we've seen. The top and bottom lips stick out a tiny bit, creating a booklike silhouette when the laptop is closed. The U300s interestingly has no bottom vents, instead pushing heat out through the hinge vents, as well as through what Lenovo calls a "breathable keyboard."

The IdeaPad U300s Lenovo

The U300s has two sister units that are very similar, although they don't technically qualify as Ultrabooks. The U300 is also a 13-inch laptop, but just slightly thicker, with both SSD and platter hard-drive options, and the U400 has a (you guessed it) 14-inch display, an optical drive, and AMD Radeon graphics.

While the U300s is a very appealing laptop with an excellent look and feel, we were more than a little surprised that Lenovo plans to charge a minimum of $1,195 for it--a far cry from the sub-$1,000 prices Intel has been promising for Ultrabooks. A Lenovo rep told us that Intel's cost parameters for the Ultrabook spec were about the bill of materials (the cost of the components) for the system, not its retail price. That may be true, but many PC makers have already found it difficult enough to compete with Apple's MacBook Air without offering a substantial price incentive to consumers.

The non-Ultrabook versions of the IdeaPad U series are much more reasonably priced: the U300 starts at $799 and the U400 at $849. All three will be available starting in October.